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High school graduation: why parents are melting down (or is it just me?)

Dear Ella-

This is strange period. Time has twisted and bent and folded in on itself. We’ve arrived at a destination so far in the future, it was inconceivable that we would get here.

You are graduating from high school.

We’ve succeeded at parenting you! Yay, you’re an adult! Our reward: you leave.


It shouldn’t come as a shock. You’ve been 18 for months now. You can sign your own consents. You can buy fireworks or a lottery ticket. You can bet on a horse or be called for jury duty.

So why does it feel so surreal to be here?

Because: eighteen years is not that long to go from squishy blob to change of address.

Because: our family is changing.

Because: give someone a baby and tell her to guard it with her life and she will do just that. Then try to tell her to stop. (Just try.)

Because: my arms still remember when you filled them.

There are miles and miles of road behind us. At any moment, I can cast my mind backwards and see you in all your ages and stages.

The thumb sucking stage.

The fancy stage where you wore only petticoat dresses for two years.

The Elephant-and-Piggy-books-performed-as-a-play stage. (You were elephant and Maya was piggy and I have to say, the roles suited you.)

The American Girl doll stage. (Oh, if we could have that money back.)

The homeschooled stage.

The chop-your-hair off stage. (And the regret that followed.)

Those months you went dark, and we had to dig our way to you.

The moment you returned.

The "cool" stage.

The gymnastics break-your-body-and-go-to-the-ER stage.

The persuasive essay stage where you could convince me of almost anything by wooing me with your words. Which is how you ended up in the cheering stage which seems to have stuck.

Oh, the ways you have changed.

You used to be too shy to talk to anyone. You hid behind my legs, and I was your voice. Now you have your own.

You used to struggle with transitions, endings and beginnings. Now you move fluidly through your life with ease and comfort.

(And can go from asleep to out the door in an impressive amount of time.

Me: “We’re leaving at 10. What time are you getting up?”

You: “9:55.”)

You used to love the Folk Festival when it came to Bangor every August. Now you go to see The Kid Laroi in Boston on your own.

You used to wash the dishes without soap or sponge. Now you…wait, you still do that.

You were bald for a long time. Then you grew wispy hair that barely covered your scalp. Now you have thick, lustrous hair that I covet.

You used to be so scared. Now you ride roller coasters.

You used to hate competition. Now you are a champion with a national title.

You used to love vegetables. Now you’re barely on speaking terms.

You used to read Junie B. Jones. Now you read Colleen Hoover.

Some things haven’t changed. You still love Taylor Swift. You are still a fashionista. You will still drop everything if we are going out for ice cream. You still pack a suitcase to bursting. You still have the best belly laugh.

Sometimes I feel truly shocked that you have grown up. You walk into a room and my mind snaps like a rubber band, moving from past to present too fast.

When I look at you, I see all these versions of you, compressed and compounded like sedimentary rock. Layers and layers of self that you stand upon, that make you exactly who you are today.

Someday this self you are right now will be part of those layers. And your future self will stand strong atop all the former iterations, not despite them but because of them.

I am so proud to know all those versions. And I cannot wait to know the ones that have yet to be.

When people ask what is so great about being a parent, it’s this. It’s being in the front-row seat of a life from the very beginning. It’s part designer, part sculptor, part cheerleader, part pack mule, part guide, part safety monitor.

Perhaps the part I didn’t realize is that being a mom is also being a historian, a memory-keeper. Who else in your whole life will ever know you this way?

Someday a spouse, maybe. But they will know you going forward. I will always know you backward.

Is that enough to let you go?

Not even close.



(whose having big feelings but wouldn't change a second of it)

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